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Friday, July 30, 2010

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Following two high-level policy reviews on Afghanistan in 2009, the Obama Administration asserts that it is pursuing a fully resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy that will pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011. The policy is predicated on the view that stabilizing Afghanistan will ensure that it cannot again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States, and that accomplishing this objective requires reversing a deterioration of security in large parts of Afghanistan since 2006. Each of the two reviews resulted in a decision to add combat troops, with the intent of creating the conditions to expand Afghan governance and economic development, rather than on defeating insurgents. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which will bring U.S. troop levels to approximately 104,000 by September 2010. Currently, U.S. troops in Afghanistan total about 95,000 and foreign partners are about 40,000.

There is not a consensus that U.S. strategy has shown clear success, to date, although senior U.S. officials say that only now is the full effect of the U.S. and partner "surge" being achieved. These comments have been intended to address a growing sense that the U.S. effort may be faltering. That perception has been fed by the failure to fully stabilize Marjah; Afghan reluctance to allow combat to better secure Qandahar Province; President Hamid Karzai's dismissal on June 5 of two top security-related officials on whom the international alliance has placed confidence; and the growing reluctance of partner countries to keep combat forces in Afghanistan. The overall mission was further disrupted by the sudden ousting on June 23 of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for disparaging public comments by him and his staff about U.S. civilian leaders of Afghanistan policy. He has been replaced by CENTCOM Commander David Petraeus, whose leading reputation has calmed Afghan and partner country fears of turmoil surrounding the McChrystal dismissal. Gen. Petraeus has expressed support for accelerating local security solutions and experiments similar to those he pursued earlier in Iraq.

Gen. Petraeus is also expected to continue and even emphasize the ongoing Afghan effort to persuade insurgent fighters to surrender and rejoin Afghan society. Karzai received backing for these initiatives at an international conference in London on January 28, 2010, during his May 2010 meetings in Washington, D.C., which was assessed as highly fruitful and resulted in a decision to renew a 2005 U.S.-Afghan long-term partnership accord. Reintegration was the primary focus of a "consultative peace jirga" that convened in Kabul during June 2-4, 2010. The issue—along with the many other issues of concern to the international community such as governance, corruption, and transition to Afghan security responsibility—was discussed at the July 20, 2010, international meeting in Kabul, a follow-up to the January 2010 London conference.

The credibility of the Afghan government is considered crucial to U.S. strategy. To improve Afghan performance, U.S. diplomats are adjusting their approach to President Karzai, who recoiled in early 2010 from U.S. criticism of his failure to curb corruption and of the extensive fraud in the August 20, 2009, presidential elections. Although U.S. officials have muted their public criticism, some in Congress have proposed tying some U.S. aid to Afghanistan to progress on this issue.

Through the end of FY2009, the United States has provided over $40 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $21 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)



Date of Report: July 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 102
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95



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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses


Kenneth Katzman   

Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The Obama Administration has continued the longstanding characterization of Iran as a "profound threat to U.S. national security interests." This threat perception has been generated not only by Iran's nuclear program but also by its military assistance to armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. In its first year, the Obama Administration altered the previous U.S. approach by expanding direct diplomatic engagement with Iran's government and by offering Iran's leaders an alternative vision of closer integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent, the Obama Administration downplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities and repeatedly insisted that it did not seek to change Iran's regime. It held to this position even at the height of the protests by the domestic opposition "Green movement" that emerged following Iran's June 12, 2009, presidential election.

Iran's refusal to accept the details of an October 1, 2009 tentative agreement to lessen concerns about its nuclear intentions—coupled with its crackdown on the Green movement—caused the Administration, in 2010, to shift away from engaging Iran's leaders and toward building multilateral support for economic sanctions against Iran. The Administration efforts bore fruit on May 18, 2010, when it announced an agreement among permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that would authorize, but not require, countries to take a number of significant steps against Iran, including banning major arms sales to Iran and authorizing inspection of ships suspected of carrying equipment for Iran's nuclear program. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 containing these provisions was passed on June 9 by a vote of 12-2 with one abstention. The Resolution represented a rejection of a May 17, 2010, agreement brokered by Brazil and Turkey to implement major features of the October 1, 2009, agreement. This U.N. resolution was followed by congressional passage of major new sanctions legislation—P.L. 111-195, signed July 1, 2010.

Some of Iran's leaders are expressing concerns about Iran's apparently growing economic isolation. Numerous foreign firms have been announcing their exit from the Iranian market, and U.S. allies are imposing new sanctions to align both with the U.N. resolutions as well as with some U.S. unilateral sanctions. However, because the sanctions have not caused Iran to fundamentally alter its commitment to its nuclear program, the Administration reportedly has revived deliberations of possible military action to try to set Iran's nuclear program back, or to undertake options to contain Iran. Some believe that Iran's domestic opposition, which in late 2009 appeared to pose a potentially serious challenge to the regime's grip on power, may provide the only clear opportunity to reduce the potential threat of a nuclear Iran. Obama Administration officials appear to believe that the opposition's prospects are enhanced by a low U.S. public profile on the unrest. Congressional resolutions and legislation since mid-2009 show growing congressional support for steps to enhance the opposition's prospects. Others maintain that the prospects for the domestic opposition which has been largely absent from the streets in 2010, are poor, and that other options are fraught with risks, and that the Administration should return to a focus on reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871, Iran Sanctions; CRS Report R40849, Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy; and CRS Report RL34544, Iran's Nuclear Program: Status
.


Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 69
Order Number: RL32048
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Libya: Background and U.S. Relations


Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Libyan-U.S. rapprochement has unfolded gradually since 2003, when the Libyan government accepted responsibility for the actions of its personnel in regard to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and announced its decision to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and longrange missile programs. In response, U.S. sanctions were gradually removed, and, on May 15, 2006, the Bush Administration announced its intention to restore full diplomatic relations with Libya and to rescind Libya's listing as a state sponsor of terrorism. Full diplomatic relations were restored on May 31, 2006, when the United States upgraded its Liaison Office in Tripoli to an Embassy. Libya was removed from the lists of state sponsors of terrorism and states not fully cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts in June 2006.

Until late 2008, U.S.-Libyan re-engagement was hindered by lingering disagreements over outstanding legal claims related to U.S. citizens killed or injured in past Libyan-sponsored or - supported terrorist attacks. From 2004 onward, Bush Administration officials argued that broader normalization of U.S.-Libyan relations would provide opportunities for the United States to address specific issues of concern to Congress, including the outstanding legal claims, political and economic reform, the development of Libyan energy resources, and human rights. However, some Members of Congress took steps to limit U.S.-Libyan re-engagement as a means of encouraging the Libyan government to settle outstanding terrorism cases in good faith prior to further normalization.

Under the terms of a Claims Settlement Agreement reached between the Libyan and U.S. governments in August 2008, funds are now available to settle specific outstanding legal claims. Congress supported the final stages of U.S.-Libyan negotiation on the agreement by passing S. 3370, the Libyan Claims Resolution Act (P.L. 110-301), which authorized the creation of an entity with legal immunity to receive settlement funds from Libya or other sources and to distribute them to U.S. plaintiffs. On October 31, 2008, the Bush Administration certified the receipt of $1.5 billion in settlement funds, and President Bush signed Executive Order 13477 stating that claims covered by the agreement were settled. The State Department has referred claims to the Department of Justice Foreign Claims Settlement Commission for adjudication.

When Scottish authorities returned convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abd al Baset Ali al Megrahi to Libya on humanitarian grounds in late 2009, the ensuing outcry in the United States and United Kingdom highlighted the continuing influence of past U.S.-Libyan differences. In July 2010, new scrutiny of Libyan-UK negotiations over Megrahi and energy contracts involving BP plc underscored this dynamic. Nevertheless, the 111th Congress and the Obama Administration inherited a U.S.-Libya relationship largely free of the formal constraints that once precluded cooperation. The relationship remains relatively undefined after decades of tension. Libya has experienced a period of significant economic growth but remains defined politically by Muammar al Qadhafi's controlling influence over a decentralized, opaque, and authoritarian political system. Economic and political reform efforts are emerging in Libya, with some limitations.

Current U.S. policy concerns include ensuring Libya's positive contribution to the security and economic prosperity of North Africa and the Sahel, securing commercial opportunities in Libya for U.S. firms, and addressing persistent human rights issues. The Obama Administration is requesting $875,000 in FY2011 foreign assistance funding for Libya programs. This report provides background information on Libya and U.S.-Libyan relations; discusses Libya's political and economic reform efforts; and reviews current issues of potential congressional interest.


Date of Report: July 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 43
Order Number: RL33140
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy


Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs


Opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking have eroded Afghanistan's fragile political and economic order over the last 30 years. In spite of ongoing counter-narcotics efforts by the Afghan government, the United States, and their partners, Afghanistan remains the source of over 90% of the world's illicit opium. Since 2001, efforts to provide viable economic alternatives to poppy cultivation and to disrupt drug trafficking and related corruption have succeeded in some areas. However, insecurity, particularly in the southern province of Helmand, and widespread corruption fueled a surge in cultivation in 2006 and 2007, pushing opium output to all-time highs.

In 2008 and 2009, poppy cultivation decreased in north-central and eastern Afghanistan, while drug activity became more concentrated in the south and west. National poppy cultivation and opium production totals dropped in 2009 for the second straight season, as pressure from provincial officials, higher wheat prices, drought, and lower opium prices altered the cultivation decisions of some Afghan poppy farmers. Preliminary estimates for the 2010 season suggest that poor weather conditions, disease, and military operations in key poppy growing areas will limit production to 2009 levels, in spite of backsliding in some areas. Some experts continue to question the sustainability of rapid changes in cultivation patterns and recommend reinforcing recent reductions to replace poppy cultivation in local economies over time.

Across Afghanistan, insurgents, criminal organizations, and corrupt officials exploit narcotics as a reliable source of revenue and patronage, which has perpetuated the threat these groups pose to the country's fragile internal security and the legitimacy of its elected government. The trafficking of Afghan drugs appears to provide financial and logistical support to a range of extremist groups that continue to operate in and around Afghanistan. Although coalition forces may be less frequently relying on figures involved with narcotics for intelligence and security support, many observers have warned that drug-related corruption among appointed and elected Afghan officials creates political obstacles to progress.

As of April 2010, Congress had appropriated approximately $4.2 billion in regular and supplemental foreign assistance and defense funding for counter-narcotics programs in Afghanistan from FY2001 through FY2010. The Obama Administration is pursuing a two-pronged interdiction and development policy in support of the government of Afghanistan's implementation of its National Drug Control Strategy. At present, U.S. military and law enforcement personnel are assisting Afghan forces and judicial authorities in targeting drug trafficking organizations while State Department, USAID, and USDA personnel are implementing expanded agricultural development assistance programs. The Administration ended U.S. support for eradication after deciding previous efforts were inefficient and potentially counterproductive. Afghan authorities continue to implement targeted eradication efforts.

This report provides current statistical information, profiles the narcotics trade's participants, explores linkages between narcotics, insecurity, and corruption, and reviews U.S. and international policy responses since late 2001. The report also considers ongoing policy debates regarding the counternarcotics role of coalition military forces, poppy eradication, alternative livelihoods, and funding issues for Congress. See also CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post- Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman, CRS Report R40699, Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance, by Curt Tarnoff, and CRS Report R40156, War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress, by Steve Bowman and Catherine Dale.



Date of Report: June 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL32686
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians


Susan G. Chesser
Information Research Specialist


This report collects statistics from a variety of sources on casualties sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which began on October 7, 2001, and is ongoing. OEF actions take place primarily in Afghanistan; however, OEF casualties also includes American casualties in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen.

Casualty data of U.S. military forces are compiled by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as tallied from the agency's press releases. Also included are statistics on those wounded but not killed. Statistics may be revised as circumstances are investigated and as records are processed through the U.S. military's casualty system. More frequent updates are available at DOD's website at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/ under "Casualty Update."

A detailed casualty summary of U.S. military forces that includes data on deaths by cause, as well as statistics on soldiers wounded in action, is available at the following DOD website: http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) does not post casualty statistics of the military forces of partner countries on the ISAF website at http://www.isaf.nato.int/. ISAF press releases state that it is ISAF policy to defer to the relevant national authorities to provide notice of any fatality. For this reason, this report uses fatality data of coalition forces as compiled by CNN.com and posted online at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/oef.casualties/index.html.

Casualty data of Afghan civilians are reported quarterly by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). Deaths of Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army personnel are reported by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in the quarterly reports to Congress that are required as part of P.L. 110-181.

Because the estimates of Afghan casualties contained in this report are based on varying time periods and have been created using different methodologies, readers should exercise caution when using them and should look to them as guideposts rather than as statements of fact.



Date of Report: July 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 5
Order Number: R41084
Price: $19.95

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Iran Sanctions


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Numerous U.S. laws and regulations have been adopted to try to slow Iran's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and curb its support for militant groups. The U.S. view is that sanctions, particularly those targeting Iran's energy sector that provides about 80% of government revenues, might reduce Iran's ability to support its WMD and terrorism support activities. United Nations sanctions have been imposed since 2006, with many of those same objectives, although more narrowly targeted to avoid harming the civilian population of Iran. U.S. sanctions are broader than those imposed by the United Nations - restricting U.S. trade with and investment in Iran, prohibiting U.S. foreign aid to Iran, and requiring the United States to vote against international lending to Iran. Several laws and executive orders authorize the imposition of U.S. penalties against foreign companies that do business with Iran, as part of an effort to persuade foreign firms to choose between the Iranian market and the much larger U.S. market. U.S. efforts to curb international energy investment in Iran's energy sector began in 1996 with the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA).

In an effort to exploit Iran's dependence on imports of gasoline, in the 111th Congress, H.R. 2194 (signed into law on July 1 – P.L. 111-195) adds as ISA violations selling refined gasoline to Iran; providing shipping insurance or other services to deliver gasoline to Iran; or supplying equipment to or performing the construction of oil refineries in Iran. The new law also adds a broad range of other measures further restricting the already limited amount of U.S. trade with Iran and restricting some trade with countries that allow WMD-useful technology to reach Iran. The enactment of this law follows the June 9, 2010, adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which imposes a ban on sales of heavy weapons to Iran and sanctions many additional Iranian entities affiliated with its Revolutionary Guard, but does not mandate sanctions on Iran's energy or broad financial sector.

The effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, by most accounts, is unclear. Nor is there certainty about the degree to which the new U.N. and U.S. sanctions enacted in 2010 will affect Iran's economy and decisionmaking process. Even though no firms have been sanctioned under ISA, that law, when coupled with broader factors, appears to have caused some international firms to refrain from investing in energy projects in Iran. Partly as a consequence, Iran's oil production has fallen slightly to about 3.9 million barrels per day, from over 4.1 million barrels per day several years ago, although Iran now has small natural gas exports that it did not have before Iran opened its fields to foreign investment in 1996. And, U.S. and international sanctions have contributed to recent decisions by numerous major international firms to end their business pursuits in Iran. However, when measured against the overall strategic objectives of the sanctions, there is a consensus that U.S. and U.N. sanctions have not, to date, caused a demonstrable shift in Iran's commitment to its nuclear program. Possibly in an effort to accomplish the separate objective of promoting the cause of the domestic opposition in Iran, the Obama Administration and Congress are increasingly emphasizing measures that would sanction Iranian officials who are human rights abusers, facilitate the democracy movement's access to information, and express outright U.S. support for the opposition. For a broader analysis of policy on Iran, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.



Date of Report: July 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 50
Order Number: RS20871
Price: $29.95

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance


Curt Tarnoff
Specialist in Foreign Affairs


The U.S. program of assistance to Afghanistan is intended to stabilize and strengthen the Afghan economic, social, political, and security environment so as to blunt popular support for extremist forces in the region. Since 2001, nearly $48 billion has been appropriated toward this effort.

More than half of U.S. assistance—roughly 57%—has gone to the training and equipping of Afghan forces. The remainder has gone to development and humanitarian-related activities from infrastructure to private sector support, governance and democratization efforts, and counternarcotics programs.

Key U.S. agencies providing aid are the Department of Defense, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of State.

In December 2009, Congress approved the FY2010 State, Foreign Operations appropriations (H.R. 3288, Division F, P.L. 111-117), providing $2 billion in the Economic Support Fund (ESF) and $420 million in the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INCLE) accounts. It also approved the FY2010 DOD appropriations (H.R. 3326, P.L. 111-118), providing $6.6 billion to the Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) and allocating $1 billion for the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) activities in Afghanistan.

On February 1, 2010, the Administration issued its FY2010 supplemental and FY2011 regular budget requests. The supplemental request for foreign operations and DOD foreign assistance programs totals $4.4 billion. The FY2011 regular request equals $16.6 billion.

This report provides a "big picture" overview of the U.S. aid program and congressional action. It describes what various aid agencies report they are doing in Afghanistan. It does not address the effectiveness of their programs. It will be updated as events warrant.

For discussion of the Afghan political, security, and economic situation, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman. For greater detail on security assistance provided by the Department of Defense, see CRS Report R40156, War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress, by Steve Bowman and Catherine Dale. For fuller information on U.S. counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, see CRS Report RL32686, Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy, by Christopher M. Blanchard. For information on the United Nations effort, see CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson.



Date of Report: July 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R40699
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Following two high-level policy reviews on Afghanistan in 2009, the Obama Administration asserts that it is pursuing a fully resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy that will pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011. The policy is intended to address deteriorating security in large parts of Afghanistan since 2006. Each of the two reviews resulted in a decision to add combat troops, with the intent of creating the conditions to expand Afghan governance and economic development, rather than on hunting and defeating insurgents. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which will bring U.S. troop levels to approximately 104,000 by September 2010. Currently, U.S. troops in Afghanistan total about 94,000 and foreign partners are about 40,000.

U.S. strategy has not shown clear success, to date, although senior U.S. officials say that only now is the effect of the U.S. and partner "surge" being achieved. These comments have been intended to address a growing sense that the conflict may not produce clear or permanent stability in Afghanistan. That perception has been fed by the failure to fully stabilize Marjah; Afghan reluctance to allow combat to better secure Qandahar Province; President Hamid Karzai's dismissal on June 5 of two top security-related officials on whom the international alliance has placed extensive confidence; and the imminent or near-term departure of several major partner contingents, and growing reluctance of others to continue the effort. Although U.S. strategy is not expected to change, the overall mission was further disrupted by the sudden ousting on June 23 of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for disparaging public comments by him and his staff about U.S. civilian leaders of Afghanistan policy. He has been replaced by CENTCOM Commander David Petraeus, whose leading reputation will likely calm Afghan and partner country fears of turmoil surrounding the McChrystal dismissal.

The credibility of the Afghan government is considered crucial to U.S. strategy. To improve Afghan performance, U.S. diplomats are adjusting their approach to President Karzai, who recoiled in early 2010 from U.S. criticism of his failure to curb corruption and of the extensive fraud in the August 20, 2009, presidential elections. U.S.-Karzai strains on these issues—and over Karzai's criticism of what he asserted was U.S. disrespect for Afghan sovereignty—nearly led to a revocation of President Obama's invitation for Karzai to visit the United States May 10-14, 2010. The visit was assessed as highly fruitful and resulted in a decision to renew a 2005 U.S.- Afghan long-term partnership accord, although that positive assessment subsequently soured following U.S. press articles in June that said Karzai doubts that the United States can prevail in Afghanistan.

A major issue—and the focus of the Karzai visit to Washington, DC, and an international meeting on Afghanistan held in London on January 28, 2010—has been the effort to persuade insurgent fighters and leaders to end their fight and join the political process. There is broad international support for Karzai's plan to reintegrate insurgent foot soldiers but not for his vision of reconciling with high-level insurgent figures, potentially including Taliban leader Mullah Umar. Karzai received general backing for these initiatives at a "consultative peace jirga" that convened in Kabul during June 2-4, 2010.

Through the end of FY2009, the United States has provided over $40 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $21 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)


Date of Report: June 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 101
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The performance and legitimacy of the Afghan government figured prominently in two reviews of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan during 2009 and continues to color U.S. relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In his December 1, 2009, speech on Afghanistan, which followed the second review, President Obama stated that the Afghan government would be judged on performance, and "The days of providing a blank check are over." President Obama reportedly pressed Karzai to move more decisively to address his government's deficiencies, particularly corruption, during a March 28, 2010, visit to Afghanistan. The emphasis on that issue may have contributed to two subsequent statements by Karzai accusing the international community of exercising undue pressure on him and on Afghanistan. These issues were muted during Karzai's May 10-14, 2010, visit to Washington, DC, which was described by officials on both sides as highly productive. It produced a commitment to renew and expand a U.S.-Afghanistan "strategic partnership" by the end of 2010. However, the benefits of the visit quickly dissipated when Karzai fired two of the most pro-U.S. top security officials on June 5, 2010, with one of them alleging that Karzai has concluded he must negotiate with Pakistan on a settlement of the Afghan conflict because the U.S.-led coalition will not succeed in pacifying Afghanistan.

The Afghan government's widespread official corruption, as well as its ineffectiveness, is identified by U.S. officials as feeding the insurgency. Karzai's alliances with key ethnic and political faction leaders have reduced his ability to fill the government with politically neutral and technically competent officers. In the August 20, 2009, presidential election, there were widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by an Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). Nearly one-third of President Karzai's votes were invalidated, leaving him just short of the 50%+ total needed to avoid a second-round runoff. Asserting that more fraud was likely, Karzai's main challenger dropped out of the race on November 1, 2009, and Karzai was declared the winner. He has since had difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a full cabinet, and seven ministerial posts remain unfilled. Most of the well-regarded economic ministers have been retained. Lacking confidence in the central government, the United States is now focused on strengthening local governing bodies, in part by expanding the presence of U.S. government civilians as advisors outside Kabul. The Administration also has appointed senior civilian officials to work jointly with their military counterparts in the five regional commands.

Karzai has tried to rebuild international support by announcing new anti-corruption steps as well as by formulating proposals to try to persuade insurgent fighters to give up their fight. Several donors at a major international conference on Afghanistan in Britain on January 28, 2010, endorsed—and agreed to begin to fund—Karzai's proposals, which were mostly endorsed at an Afghan consultative "peace jirga" during June 2-4, 2010. However, concerns remain about whether Karzai is committed to ensuring that the upcoming parliamentary elections, to be held September 18, 2010, will correct previous flaws and prove free and fair. Confidence was undermined, to an extent, in February 2010 when Karzai issued an election decree to govern the National Assembly elections on September 18, 2010. The decree eliminated the three U.N.- appointed positions for international officials on the ECC, although a subsequent compromise restored two non-Afghan ECC seats. For more information, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman, and CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson.



Date of Report: June 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 44
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Iran Sanctions


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs


Numerous U.S. laws and regulations have been adopted to try to slow Iran's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and curb its support for militant groups. The U.S. belief is that sanctions, particularly those targeting Iran's energy sector, which provides about 80% of government revenues, can reduce Iran's ability to support its WMD programs and generate domestic pressure within Iran to adopt policies more acceptable to the international community. Some United Nations sanctions have been imposed since 2006, with many of those same objectives, although more narrowly targeted to avoid harming the civilian population of Iran. The wide range of U.S. sanctions restrict U.S. trade with and investment in Iran, prohibit U.S. foreign aid to Iran, and require the United States to vote against international lending to Iran. Several laws and executive orders authorize the imposition of U.S. penalties against foreign companies that do business with Iran, as part of an effort to persuade foreign firms to choose between the Iranian market and the much larger U.S. market. U.S. efforts to curb international energy investment in Iran's energy sector began in 1996 with the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), but no firms have been sanctioned under it. Still, ISA, when coupled with broader factors, may have influenced some international firms' decisions to refrain from investing in energy projects in Iran.

In an effort to exploit Iran's dependence on imports of gasoline, in the 111th Congress, H.R. 2194 (which awaits action on a conference report submitted June 23, 2010), would add as ISA violations selling refined gasoline to Iran; providing shipping insurance or other services to deliver gasoline to Iran; or supplying equipment to or performing the construction of oil refineries in Iran. The conference report adds a broad range of other measures further restricting the already limited amount of U.S. trade with Iran. The June 22, 2010, conference agreement on H.R. 2194 follows the June 9, 2010, adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which imposes a ban on sales of heavy weapons to Iran and sanctions many additional Iranian entities affiliated with its Revolutionary Guard, but does not mandate the stronger measures sought by the United States such as sanctions on Iran's energy or broad financial sector.

The effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, by most accounts, is unclear. Iran's oil production has fallen to about 3.8 million barrels per day, from over 4 million barrels per day several years ago, although Iran now has a gas export sector that it did not have before Iran opened its fields to foreign investment in 1996. Some Iranian economic sectors have clearly been harmed by sanctions, but any such effects have not, to date, caused a demonstrable shift in Iran's commitment to its nuclear program. The sanctions have, to some extent, fostered a growing perception that Iran is an international outcast, demonstrated by the announcement over the past two years by several major international firms that they are ending their business pursuits in Iran. To try to further Iran's isolation and strengthen the domestic opposition, the Obama Administration and Congress appear to be increasingly emphasizing further measures that would sanction Iranian officials who are human rights abusers, facilitate the democracy movement's access to information, and express outright U.S. support for the opposition. For a broader analysis of policy on Iran, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.



Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 47
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pakistan: Key Current Issues and Developments

K. Alan Kronstadt
Specialist in South Asian Affairs


A stable, democratic, prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy is considered vital to U.S. interests. U.S. concerns regarding Pakistan include regional and global terrorism; efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan; nuclear weapons proliferation; the Kashmir problem and Pakistan-India tensions; democratization and human rights protection; and economic development. Pakistan is praised by U.S. leaders for its ongoing cooperation with U.S.-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, although long-held doubts exist about Islamabad's commitment to some core U.S. interests. A mixed record on battling Islamist extremism includes ongoing apparent tolerance of Taliban elements operating from its territory, although some evidence from early 2010 suggests a possible shift here. 

The increase in Islamist extremism and militancy in Pakistan is a central U.S. foreign policy concern. The development hinders progress toward key U.S. goals, including the defeat of Al Qaeda and other anti-U.S. terrorist groups, Afghan stabilization, and resolution of the historic Pakistan-India rivalry that threatens the entire region's stability and that has a nuclear dimension. Long-standing worries that American citizens have been recruited and employed in Islamist terrorism by Pakistan-based elements have become more concrete in recent months, especially following a failed May 2010 bombing attempt in New York City. 

A bilateral Pakistan-India peace process was halted after a November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai was traced to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. At the time of this writing, the process appears to be resuming, but serious mutual animosities persist. Pakistan is wary of India's presence in Afghanistan, where Islamabad seeks a friendly government and has had troubled relations with the Kabul government. A perceived Pakistan-India nuclear arms race has been the focus of U.S. nonproliferation efforts in South Asia. 

Pakistan's political setting remains fluid, with ongoing power struggles between the executive and judiciary which could lead to renewed military intervention in the political system, along with the April 2010 passage of an 18th Amendment to the Pakistani Constitution, which greatly reduces the powers of the presidency. Rampant inflation and unemployment, along with serious food and energy shortages, have elicited considerable economic anxiety in Pakistan. Such concerns weigh heavily on the already constrained civilian government. Pakistan's troubled economic conditions, uncertain political setting, perilous security circumstances, and history of troubled relations with its neighbors present serious challenges to U.S. decision makers. 

The Obama Administration continues to pursue close and mutually beneficial relations with Islamabad. As part of its strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan, the Administration's Pakistan policy includes a tripling of nonmilitary aid to improve the lives of the Pakistani people, as well as the conditioning of U.S. military aid to Islamabad on that government's progress in combating militancy and in further fostering democratic institutions. A Special Representative was appointed to coordinate U.S. government efforts with both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan is among the world's leading recipients of U.S. aid and will by the end of FY2010 have obtained more than $10.4 billion in overt assistance since 2001, including about $6 billion in development and humanitarian aid. Pakistan also has received more than $8 billion in military reimbursements for its support of and engagement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts. 

This report reviews key current issues and developments in Pakistan and in U.S.-Pakistan relations.



Date of Report: June 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 74
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Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Iraq's political system, the result of a U.S.-supported election process, has been increasingly characterized by peaceful competition, as well as by attempts to form cross-sectarian alliances. However, ethnic and factional infighting continues, sometimes involving the questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions. This was in evidence in the successful efforts by Shiite Arab political leaders to disqualify some prominent Sunni Arab candidates in the March 7, 2010, national elections for the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament), which will form the next government. Election-related violence occurred before and during the election, although not at levels of earlier years.

With the results of the March 7, 2010, election certified, the cross-sectarian but Sunni-supported "Iraqiyya" slate of former Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi unexpectedly gained a plurality of 91 of the 325 COR seats up for election. Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's State of Law slate won 89, and a rival Shiite coalition was third with 70. The main Kurdish parties, again allied, won 43. Allawi's slate had been expected to receive the first opportunity to put together a majority coalition to form a government. Maliki and the other main Shiite coalition, opposing what they claim is the mostly Sunni Arab base of the Allawi slate, have forged a tenuous alliance to form the next government. However, differences over who this Shiite bloc would select as prime minister could cause it to fragment, leaving the issue of who might emerge as prime minister still open. Jalal Talabani appears likely to retain the post of president, although this, too, is not certain. No posts were agreed upon when the COR convened for the first time post-election (June 14, 2010).

Allawi, who is viewed as even-handed and not amenable to Iranian influence, was considered to be favored by the Obama Administration and by Sunni-dominated regional neighbors such as Saudi Arabia. However, many expect that neither the United States nor these neighbors can or will intervene decisively to shape a new government led by Allawi. The domestic tensions over the election result have not substantially altered the Obama Administration's planned reduction of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. The current U.S. troop level is about 83,000, and a reduction to 50,000 is to be completed by September 1, 2010. The outgoing top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, says that U.S. drawdown plans would change substantially only if the post-election political process turns highly violent—a development that is not widely expected. Under the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement that took effect January 1, 2009, and which President Obama has said would be followed, all U.S. forces are to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. U.S. officials are hoping that a new government might be able to overcome the roadblocks that have thus far prevented passage of key outstanding legislation considered crucial to political comity going forward, such as national hydrocarbon laws. See CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman.


Date of Report: July 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Prospects for Democracy in Hong Kong: The 2012 Election Reforms


Michael F. Martin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Support for the democratization of Hong Kong has been an element of U.S. foreign policy for over 17 years. The Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 (P.L. 102-383) states, "Support for democratization is a fundamental principle of United States foreign policy. As such, it naturally applies to United States policy toward Hong Kong. This will remain equally true after June 30, 1997" (the date of Hong Kong's reversion to China). The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-8) provides at least $17 million for "the promotion of democracy in the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan …"

The democratization of Hong Kong is also enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong's quasiconstitution that was passed by China's National People's Congress (NPC) prior to China's resumption of sovereignty over the ex-British colony on July 1, 1997. The Basic Law stipulates that the "ultimate aim" is the selection of Hong Kong's Chief Executive and the members of its Legislative Council (Legco) by "universal suffrage." However, it does not designate a specific date by which this goal is to be achieved.

On November 18, 2009, Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen released the government's long-awaited "consultation document" on possible reforms for the city's next Chief Executive and Legislative Council (Legco) elections to be held in 2012. The document delineates the changes possible for the 2012 elections in light of the December 2007 decision by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPCSC) that precluded the direct election of the Chief Executive and Legco by universal suffrage in 2012. These include expanding the size of the Election Committee that selects the Chief Executive from 800 to 1,200 people; increasing the number of Legco seats from 60 to 70; and allocating the five new functional constituency seats to the elected members of Hong Kong's District Councils.

The document was immediately met by sharp criticism from representatives of Hong Kong's "pro-democracy" parties. Their comments focused on the failure to provide a path towards universal suffrage for the Chief Executive election in 2017 and the Legco election in 2020. In a press conference, Chief Executive Tsang called the document a step forward for democracy in Hong Kong. He also made a call for unity, saying, "This is a time for seeking consensus, not differences. This is a time to abandon impractical demands." Five Legco members resigned on January 21, 2010, as a form of protest, forcing a by-election on May 16, 2010. The five incumbents were re-elected.

On June 7, 2010, Chief Executive Tsang submitted draft motions to Legco specifying what changes are to be made in the 2012 elections. The two motions are consistent with the recommendations made in the consultation document—increasing the size of the Election Committee for Chief Executive to 1,200 members and adding 10 new seats to Legco.

The potential 2012 election reforms are important to Hong Kong's democratization for two reasons. First, they are an indication of the Hong Kong government's willingness to press for democratic reforms. Second, the Chief Executive and Legco selected in 2012 will have the power to implement universal suffrage for the Chief Executive election in 2017 and the Legco election in 2020, if they so choose.


Date of Report: June 18, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations


Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs


The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant political and economic influence as the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large energy reserves. Since 2005, King Abdullah bin Abd al Aziz Al Saud has sought to strengthen Saudi relations with European and Asian counterparts and has worked to build and lead an Arab consensus on regional security issues such as Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Domestic reforms under King Abdullah have codified royal succession rules, begun restructuring the justice system, and updated some educational curricula and practices. An Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist campaign inside the kingdom appears to have ebbed as security improvements and anti-extremism campaigns have been implemented. However, Saudi authorities remain focused on the threat of a resurgence in domestic terrorism. In March 2010, officials announced the arrest of over 110 individuals suspected of continuing involvement in Al Qaeda activities. Robust energy export revenues in recent years strengthened the kingdom's regional and global economic position and are now providing Saudi leaders with resources to meet investment needs and fiscal challenges posed by the global economic downturn.

A close Cold War-era relationship between the United States government and the ruling Al Saud family was built on shared interests in securing Saudi oil production and in combating global Communism. Since the end of the Cold War, the emergence of the Al Qaeda terrorist threat and volatile regional security conditions in the Middle East have tested U.S.-Saudi relations. The direct participation of 15 Saudi nationals in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the identification of several Saudi nationals and entities as alleged supporters of terrorism have called into question Saudi Arabia's reliability as an ally for some U.S. observers. Increased official counterterrorism cooperation and shared concerns about Iranian foreign policy have provided a new strategic logic for U.S.-Saudi security relations since 2003. Long-standing defense ties remain intact, and U.S. arms sales have continued, with over $18.7 billion in potential Foreign Military Sales to Saudi Arabia approved by the executive branch and Congress since 2005.

While security cooperation has improved since 2003, the United States and Saudi Arabia continue to face a core challenge identified by the 9/11 Commission in its final report: defining a broader bilateral relationship that "leaders on both sides are prepared to publicly defend." The Obama Administration has continued to hold high-level consultations with key decision makers in the Saudi royal family on issues of mutual concern, including energy policy, finance, Israeli-Arab peace, Iran, trade, and counterterrorism. In conjunction with a May 2008 visit by President Bush to Saudi Arabia, the previous Administration announced new agreements relating to nuclear cooperation, infrastructure security training, and visas.

The Obama Administration has signaled its intention to engage the Saudi government as a strategic partner in efforts to promote regional stability and to defeat Al Qaeda. The 111th Congress has considered foreign assistance requests for Saudi Arabia and prohibited the use of FY2010 funds for assistance to Saudi Arabia, subject to a national interest waiver authority granted to the Secretary of State. The Obama Administration is requesting $360,000 in border security assistance and $10,000 in International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding for Saudi Arabia in FY2011. This report provides background information about Saudi Arabia and analyzes current issues in U.S.-Saudi relations
.


Date of Report: June 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 58
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The UAE's relatively open borders, economy, and society have won praise from advocates of expanded freedoms in the Middle East while producing financial excesses, social ills such as prostitution and human trafficking, and relatively lax controls on sensitive technologies acquired from the West. These concerns—as well as concerns about the UAE oversight and management of a complex and technically advanced initiative such as a nuclear power program—underscored dissatisfaction among some Members of Congress with a U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. The agreement was signed on May 21, 2009, and submitted to Congress that day. It entered into force on December 17, 2009.

Despite its social tolerance and economic freedom, the UAE government is authoritarian, although with substantial informal citizen participation and consensus-building. Assessments by a wide range of observers say that members of the elite routinely obtain favored treatment in court cases, business opportunities, and influence on national decisions. The UAE federation president, Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, technically serves a five-year term, renewable by the Federal Supreme Council (composed of the seven heads of the individual emirates), although in practice leadership changes have generally taken place only after the death of a leader. After several years of resisting electoral processes similar to those instituted by other Gulf states, and despite an absence of popular pressure for elections, the UAE undertook its first electoral process in December 2006. The process was criticized as far from instituting Western-style democratic processes, because the electorate was limited and selected by the government, and it voted for only half of the membership of a body with limited powers. The other half of the body continues to be appointed.

Partly because of substantial UAE federal government financial intervention, the political and social climate has remained calm through the ongoing global financial crisis and recession, which has hit Dubai emirate particularly hard and called into question its strategy of ambitious, investment-fueled development. Many expatriate workers left UAE after widespread layoffs, particularly in the financial and real estate sectors. During the crisis, there have been somewhat more criticism of and official crackdowns against expatriate social behavior that many UAE citizens have always considered offensive.

For details and analysis of the U.S.-UAE nuclear agreement and legislation concerning that agreement, see CRS Report R40344, The United Arab Emirates Nuclear Program and Proposed U.S. Nuclear Cooperation, by Christopher M. Blanchard and Paul K. Kerr.


Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
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